TEDx event highlights new ideas in Williamsport

Spurred by a drive for community involvement, area leaders and residents came together Saturday for TEDx Williamsport – a local take on a national movement.

“A lot of bigger cities have these events, so why shouldn’t we,” said Chuck Black, a co-organizer of the TEDx Williamsport event, an independently organized TED event. TED is a national organization that publishes talks to help the spread of ideas.  

He said the event, held at the Pajama Factory, was meant to encourage a positive dialogue in the community about issues ranging from best recycling practices and art to outdoor recreation and risks to a healthy community.

Black and Emily Gale began organizing the event in October. They received an independent license from TED and started holding auditions, eventually selecting 11 speakers for the event.

One week after the tickets went on sale, they were sold out, Black said.

Gale encouraged attendees to “ask questions and be a little uncomfortable and challenge our own way of thinking,” adding that this helps a community grow.  

Regis Bingham, a financial adviser, chaplain and mental health therapist, outlined the difference between neighborhoods and communities, explaining that communities are shared visions and shared values and neighborhoods simply are houses and people who live in the same general area.

The community in Williamsport is stifled when people believe its problems are caused by outsiders but then produce a solution that excludes them, Bingham said.

“If they are not a part of the community, they will not be able to enhance it,” Bingham said, adding that Williamsport should strive to “be a friend to the entire world.”

Kacie Hopkins, a social entrepreneur and co-founder of Wildflower Enterprises, highlighted the need to support local ideals in a global market.

“Think globally and act locally,” Hopkins said, adding that this can be done by encouraging fair trade and supporting local businesses that tell the full history behind their products.

Art and community go hand-in-hand, said local artists Joanne Landis and Judith Olinsky. Landis shared her journey from being an artist in New York City to her migration to rural Pennsylvania and eventually to setting up shop in the Pajama Factory.

“Painting is a very isolating practice,” Landis said, encouraging people to “be relentless” and “put everything into your work.”

Revitalizing the art scene in Williamsport has been a mission of Olinsky’s since the early 1990s. With the help of other community leaders, she helped to revitalize the art scene and showcase local businesses and artists through what she called “regionalization of the arts.”

These efforts included instituting First Fridays each month, coordinated media efforts and revitalizing downtown business storefronts.

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